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Phil Goff Address to Police Association Conference

Speech – New Zealand Labour Party

Thank you President Greg O’Connor and the Police Association team for the invitation to speak to you today.Phil Goff Address to Police Association Conference

Thank you President Greg O’Connor and the Police Association team for the invitation to speak to you today.

I have had the privilege of addressing your conference in each of the past two years, and in those speeches I have laid out the core of Labour’s law and order agenda.

We are a party that believes in the right of Kiwis to live in a safe society. Freedom from fear is a basic right for everyone in our community.

To help deliver that vision, we believe in resourcing Police properly so your job properly. We also believe that tackling the causes of crime is the best investment New Zealand can make in building a safer future for all of us.

Your policy document “Towards a Safer New Zealand” has a lot of good suggestions about how we might do that.

In the last term of Parliament, Labour increased sworn police numbers by over a thousand. It was a huge investment. But with the Government debt rising by $35 billion in this term of Government, our spending commitments of necessity are modest.

I’ll come to the specific commitments Labour is making that will make your jobs easier. But I want first to talk about what we need to do to reduce crime by dealing with the problems that give rise to it.

Your members are close to the grassroots of your communities. The work that you do, talking with people, responding to call outs, providing a much-needed sense of security and order when things have gone wrong, keeps you in touch with what is going on.

When we discuss how to prevent crime starting up in the first place, we end up talking about “the five percent”, the kids who are at risk and who get a rotten start to life.

The kid who isn’t in school when they should be.The kid whose father beats up mum or is a gang member.Children from homes where drug and/ or alcohol addiction is part of their daily lives.

Children in households where there isn’t a regular income, where people aren’t working and where too often there isn’t enough money in the place to pay the bills and feed everyone properly.

We can’t afford the human wastage that the 5 percent represents – the loss of potential of the kids concerned and the cost to society of that and the problems which result. To have safer communities, we have to address this problem.

When I spoke to you in 2009, I said we had to be tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.

I’m not going to canvass at length the record of legislation I passed during Labour’s time in government that toughened sentences for the worst offenders, and gave both you and the courts more tools to deal with the worst offenders.

Luke McMahon knows it well. He worked with me on it. As did Greg O’Connor. We changed the bail laws, the parole laws, the sentencing laws and introduced legislation to help victims.

But I want to tackle the “tough on the causes” side of the equation today. The long term changes we need to make, not just the short term responses to problems after the event.

There is clearly a link between poverty, dysfunctional families and crime. And it’s the low income families that suffer disproportionately from crime, even if it’s the high income communities that worry most about crime.

Last week, Annette King and I launched Labour’s Agenda for Children. “It’s about our kids” we called it.

Children are at the heart of the agenda I will bring to government. It’s a pretty broad agenda.

First, it is about lifting families out of poverty. People need enough to live on to provide properly for their families. But income support by itself is not enough. We need much more than that. It’s about breaking the cycle of intergenerational dependency, giving kids the health care, the decent housing, the educational opportunities. It’s about motivating them to take advantage of these opportunities. We want our children to be aspirational.

All parents need help with parenting. That’s why organizations like Plunket are important. But children from the five percent category need more focused, more intensive on-going support if we are to make a real difference in their lives.

And it’s not too difficult to know which families need that extra attentionThe so-called longitudinal studies which followed children born in the 1970s in Canterbury and Otago found that the future behaviour and success of an individual was determined in the first years of a child’s life.

That’s why it is so important that we take action to make a difference at this point.The earlier we tackle the problems, the more effective we will be.

What we invest or spend here, we will save many timeis over by preventing the human, social and financial costs that we will incur in the future if we do nothing.

Under Labour Agenda for Children we are going to make sure all parents register their children with a Well Child provider before birth.

Well Child providers like Plunket give parents access to health education and other forms of support. These providers will identify the kids at most risk from family circumstances.

Those kids will get new, intensive support for the first eighteen months of their lives, and ongoing support through free early7 childhood education until they are three.

It’s an investment we are committing to, because it will make sure that those children get the gift that most kids look forward to without thinking about it: a decent chance in life.

For the most vulnerable children, we’ll make sure that the services they start out life with are followed by early childhood education from eighteen months, continuing that support that will see them on the path where they grow up as well adjusted young people with hope for the future. Instead of on a path to your door and to the criminal justice system.

Investing in our children, as we propose to do, will lead to better and happier lives for the children. It will also help achieve safer and healthier communities .

Communities in which doing your job is less dangerous, less stressful, and less busy.

Early intervention if critical, but it does not mean that we do nothing about teenagers now on the path to criminal careers.

It is time that our response in this area is about more than just politicking.

When I became Minister of Justice in 1999 there was something in place called Correctional Training, more popularly known as, Boot Camps.

Early morning runs and cold showers had popular appeal but basically all that was achieved was fitter young criminals. The reoffending rate was 94% within one to two years. It was a waste of public money and I scrapped it.

National has brought back boot camps for popular reasons, but early analysis indicates once again that they are not successful and waste scarce resources.

That’s bad enough but what I really object to is their scrapping of the Te Hurihanga programme I set up as a pilot in the Waikato. It dealt with 14 – 17 year old recidivist offenders on the path to a lifetime in jail. I worked with Judge Carolyn Henwood and people like Stephen Tindall to get it right.

It involved intensive work for 18 months dealing with the causes of their offending, followed by on-going mentoring and getting them into skill training and work. The Youth Horizons Trust managed the programme.

These were the hardest group of young men to try to change but we got world beating results. The success rate was running at an 82% reduction in reoffending at the time they closed the programme down.

It is a real pity that politics got in the way of something that worked.

Reducing crime is a long-term investment. It takes time to turn people’s lives around but unless we tackle the cause instead of only addressing the symptoms, things will never change.

Last time I spoke with you I outlined the philosophy we want to apply to policing: sweating the small stuff. That means making sure there is a timely police response to all reported crime. The law and order policy we released a couple of weeks ago talks about refocusing Police resources onto doing that and that is a discussion where the Association will have a leading role to play.

We will be looking at how we can make better use of non-sworn staff to support constables in ways that leave them more time for rapid responses on these crimes that make a real difference to people’s feeling of security.

Those are questions you touch on in your policy document, and they’re questions we will work through with you next year. We know that Police always need more resources to do the job, and to allow for more of a focus on crimes that today aren’t getting the attention we would like to see.

According to information from last year’s Budget either out of the twelve police districts will have fewer police by the end of 2011 then they had in 2009.

We are going to bring all Police districts up to the strength funded in 2008, which by our reckoning means another 145 officers. The cost of this investment is around $24m a year when fully implemented, which we will do over four years.

Part of that recruitment will be used to address the problem of one-person police stations. At 30 April 2011 there were sixty two such stations around the country.

Sole charge stations put police officers at unnecessary risk. We will increase staffing in all of them to two.

Last year I also spoke with you about tackling the problem of organised crime.

One of the most important pieces of legislation in this respect is the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 which I initiated in 2005. It is a powerful tool to attack the assets of those benefitting from crime. Roughly $40 million of criminal proceeds has been recovered to date.

The Police’s Assets Recovery Unit needs to be properly resourced. Staff in other Government agencies need to be trained to assist the ARU.

Taking the profit out of crime is one of the most important ways of combatting it.

For this election the watch word on spending is discipline.We are sticking within tight spending limits, tighter than New Zealand has seen from an opposition party in many years.

We’re focusing the limited dollars available for new spending on the things that will turn the country around, on things that will help turn families around.

It is a bit unconventional I suppose for me to spend a lot of time here talking about social policy.

I figure you know my record on law and order issues. You know how strongly I believe in everyone’s right to a safe society. You know I’ll make the tough calls to deliver it.

More of the same policies will lead to more of the same problems. We need to give every single Kiwi kid the chance of a decent life.

We need to make sure that the sins of the parents are not visited on the children, and we break the cycle of dependency and anti-social behaviour.

We need to change things now so that the promise of a decent way of life for every single young New Zealander can be a reality and we achieve a better and safer society.

Thank you very much.

Authorised by Phil Goff, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

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